What NOT to do in your garden in April

by AnneWareham on April 5, 2013

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They tell you :

The arrival of spring can mean fast growth.

Love this, as I see daffodils shivering in the east wind and refusing to open….

In sunny weather, temperatures can rise sharply in greenhouses and cold frames. To prevent damage to seedlings, make sure your plants are well ventilated.

Well, we’ll let the sunny weather go (No – hey! The sun just came out!! Time for a drink and good book, sitting out in the sunshine!) – this will have been written months ago or even last spring, when I think we had a heat wave. (Is this another heatwave????!!). I have to wonder though – what seedlings?? You may have some, I guess…in which case…OK, if you see the sun, rush out there. Otherwise leave them feeling cosy.

Weed seedlings appear rapidly this month. Remove them before they flower and set further seeds.

Well, on the whole, they don’t if you keep the garden under a permanent mulch, topped up when you can get the material or when you’ve run out of ‘things to do in your garden.’ Though cleavers does manage to germinate when all else fails – tell me how???? I never know whether it isn’t best and most satisfying to wait till cleavers, otherwise known as sticky willy (ugh) is big and tough enough to pull out in long streamers..

Lift and transplant self-sown annuals and perennials into more suitable positions for flowering.

You know, I don’t generally leave space in my garden for this kind of messing around. I like my plants to be loving up together, not leaving empty space for extras. And, of course, if you mulch (see above) you get neither seedling weeds nor seedling desirables. Price of feet up…

Grasses Parterre and seat, Veddw, copyright Anne Wareham

Grasses Parterre and seat, spring, Veddw,

Leeks need to be sown by the first week of April for autumn harvest. Sow directly into a seed bed, or into modules where they can be grown on in a cold frame to be planted out in their final positions in May and June.

I like leek and potato soup, it’s true – but is there a less sexy vegetable to grow than a leek?? And, you know, when you buy them in shops these days they seem to be grit free. Can you do that in your garden?? And, note with horror – you have to transplant them! Not one job, but two – and then harvesting and trying to get the grit out..

Plant summer-flowering bulbs such as gladioli by the end of this month. They need a well-drained position in full sun.

Dame Edna would be proud of you.

Feed shrubs and roses with a balanced fertiliser such as Growmore or Vitax Q4.

Nice little advert here! – for an unwanted and expensive task… Grow shrubs and roses that don’t need that extra effort and expense – I seem to spend a great deal of time restraining my shrubs (sometimes called pruning but more like slaughter really). And you should see Rosa Felicia here – and smell it. A hybrid musk, and never been fed.

Apply a mulch of well-rotted compost between 5cm (2in) and 7.5cm (3in) deep around shrubs. Take care not to place it directly against their stems as this can cause fungal rots to take hold. Mulching reduces further weed germination and conserves soil moisture in the summer.

Charles' Garden, Veddw in spring copyright Anne Wareham

Charles’ Garden, Veddw in spring

If you use compost of any description to mulch you will, bettcha, get those weed seedlings that mulching would otherwise spare you. Try wood chipping from a tree surgeon or bark from a fencing manufacturer. And, yes, don’t believe that nitrogen depletion nonsense.

Sow tender vegetables such as tomatoes and sweetcorn under cover, to give them a head start. Plant them out in the garden after the last frosts.

If you must, if you must…. Bet they were a treat last year, eh??

Use fleece or a frame covered in very fine mesh and place over brassicas, to protect against flea beetles that become active now and cause severe distortion and damage to foliage.

How to make a really attractive garden…

Early April is the last chance to lift and divide herbaceous perennials before their growth resumes in earnest. 

However, they will lift and divide any time during the summer if they are well watered after…

Wash your pots

I bet you have a handy sink with running hot water where you keep your pots?? I remember this one, as I didn’t.  Freezing cold water out of the hose, dirt everywhere, wondering what for. Gave it up and never looked back. Even when I did the growing seeds thing (I am a proper gardener, you know) I never noticed any problem from using dirty pots.

Hedge Garden, Veddw, copyright Anne Wareham

Hedge Garden, Veddw,

Don’t worry if the bad weather has made you late sowing seeds. They will catch up.

Now they tell you. Did you really go out in the freezing cold and snow, thinking the job was as urgent as they said? Well, now look what they’re saying…

Sow hardy annuals in spare patches of ground. The-can’t-fail-collection: love-in-a-mist, Californian poppy, larkspur, clary sage and dill, which delivers beautiful, airy heads of open, acid-green flowers, ideal for cutting.

What spare patches of ground????

Turn your compost heap

Why on earth???

Watch out for lily beetles.

And say a friendly hello when you spot one.

Dead-heading naturalised bulbs will keep them vigorous and healthy.

But you won’t get any seeding…

 Rake moss from the lawn with a spring-time rake towards the end of the month.

They do not love you, these well paid writers. Moss in the lawn keeps it green, soft and bouncy. Loverly under bare toes if you dare risk the inevitable slug squashing too..

And, for the nit pickers – what have we been doing at Veddw? None of the above.  I drained the reflecting pool and mopped it clean. Pulled out the dead foliage from some of the succulents in the conservatory and hoovered up some spider webs. Jeff went on digging the new drainage trench to hopefully save the yew hedges, cut down the Pleioblastus auricomus and mulched. Charles cut out loads of dead Cotoneaster. Watched it snow, yet again.. That was it.

Anne Wareham

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Conservatory Veddw copyright Anne Wareham

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Polly Eddis April 5, 2013 at 4:28 pm

What a breath of fresh air! Hooray! Back to the racing on television and out of this bitter wind…

AnneWareham April 5, 2013 at 4:33 pm

With a cup of tea and a biscuit, I trust.. or is it wine time???

Nic April 5, 2013 at 5:35 pm

3 cheers for not washing pots. Hateful job. Tried to avoid the hose debacle and do it indoors with warm water – with predictable results. Cue pointless housework and pots still dirty, but wet and muddy too.

AnneWareham April 5, 2013 at 5:39 pm

You have reminded me – I used to do it indoors – gets everything filthy and had them all precariously piled up on each other to dry…o, why ever?

John April 5, 2013 at 6:05 pm

I will pop along and plant a single Himalayan balsam seedling where you are unlikely to find it. A year or two later and it will be growing happily out of 6″ deep mulch coverings, gravel paths of the same depth, in the succulent pots in your conservatory (I kid you not!), your guttering, any loose mortar you have around the place….

Then you will know what weeding is! If you ignore the weeding you’ll have one of the most bee-friendly gardens in Monmouthshire.

OTOH, haven’t sown a single seed yet, nor found a single lily beetle (relief!). But I’ve Niwaki’d anything looking the least bit prunable or diggable.

Oh, and I’m out of biscuits!

AnneWareham April 5, 2013 at 6:08 pm

I’ll have fun popping the seedheads! And anything for the bees, eh??

No biscuits??? Noooo

john lord April 6, 2013 at 9:45 pm

Cleavers or Robin run the hedge – a great name – must be pulled out as early as possible, if it’s allowed grow to any length it’s much more difficult to remove, as it breaks off at a weak spot just above the soil and regrows. Its large seeds, freely produced, give it a good head start. Zero tolerance!

AnneWareham April 6, 2013 at 9:53 pm

Ah, those seeds – you have a good point there…..thank you.. XXX

john lord April 7, 2013 at 11:21 pm

The other thing I forgot to mention is if you have a dog, it should be a Mexican Hairless, or with a regular dog keep him tightly shaved so the seeds won’t stick to his coat and hope animal welfare doesn’t call round.

AnneWareham April 8, 2013 at 8:36 am


Elizabeth Buckley April 8, 2013 at 7:37 am

‘The arrival of spring…..’ When’s that going to happen then?

Where’s the lily foliage I’m supposed to spot Lily beetles on?! None showing yet.

‘Mulching blah blah blah and conserves soil moisture’ What moisture?!! Anybody else got a dry garden?

And what dead heads of bulbs am I supposed to remove? None have flowered yet!

I’m also firmly in the non-washed pots camp; dirty lot aren’t we!

AnneWareham April 8, 2013 at 8:39 am

Well, those lists are always mad but that was madder than most! The digital world begins to make newspapers and magazines a bit ridiculous?

Kathryn Marsh April 9, 2013 at 7:00 pm

Oh I love it – just found this blog (and thank you for the link Peter Donegan). Had decided to clear and replant a small bed this week because tree roots etc were choking shrubs and bulbs. Took four days to do three square metres because the cold made arthritis too painful to work. I’m not coming out until the sun does

AnneWareham April 9, 2013 at 9:09 pm

And, we certainly don’t need to do more of anything but that which has to be done. My sympathies!

Helen May 8, 2013 at 11:36 am

The best response to lily beetle is not to grow lilies in my humble opinion. I have dug up the lawn so thats another job gone from the list. I mulch alot and hardly have to weed. I do wash pots but only when sowing seeds and I do it in the kitchen so its not cold. As for sowing seeds I use my gardeners instinct and dont follow what the gardening media say but then I do that with most gardening task!! Oh and having given up the allotment I dont have any of that other nonsense to deal with, I buy my veg from the supermarket and have no gluts to endlessly preserve. Life is quite happy

AnneWareham May 8, 2013 at 2:57 pm

Sensible! = how to enjoy your garden.